My oldest son just celebrated his fifth birthday, and part of the festivities for the day involved cake (he wanted chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and I gladly obliged). So, what does baking a cake have to do with Christ and His church? I’m glad you asked :). Let’s look at how one bakes a cake.
STEP 1: Gather ingredients and mix together in the correct measurements.
Let’s start with the ingredients. Most of the ingredients in a cake you would not eat by themselves, right? I am certainly not putting a tablespoon of baking powder in my mouth any time soon. But if a baker brings the ingredients together and measures and mixes them according to the recipe, those ingredients will end up looking and tasting very different. They will no longer be separate ingredients but one batter. They become a new thing. The individual ingredients will no longer be visually distinguishable.
Each one of us, as individual members of the Church, is an ingredient. We are all distinct—we serve different purposes and have different flavors—but we are not meant to stand alone. The members of the church are better together than they are as individual parts. And in spiritual reality, we are together right now, united as one Body—the Body of Christ. Our Baker, who is Christ, brings us together and unites us.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1 Corinthians 12:12–13
STEP 2: Pour the batter into a mold.
Then, a baker pours the cake batter into whatever mold he wants. It might be a square or circle or a star shape—the point is that the BAKER chooses the mold, not the batter. The batter is passive to the desires of the baker.
Our Baker also molds us into the shape He desires. He is the head of the Church. He knows what we are meant to be and He is the one who sets our paths. He is the molder.
…who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.
STEP 3: Bake the cake in the oven.
Finally, a baker puts the mold with the batter in it into the oven. The batter can only become what it is ultimately meant to be through fire. Without the heat, the ingredients cannot grow together.
This step is the work of the Cross. Through the fire and refining process, we learn to let go of our self-life. We learn to live by the life of the Spirit, free from the law and the power of sin. This affects both the individual believer and the whole church—we don’t go through this alone. In the same way we are not meant to be individual, scattered stones but living stones, being fit together to build a spiritual house for God.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4–5
The Finished Product
Now taste the cake. It’s delicious, isn’t it? Not an ingredient missed. Not over- or under-done. That flavor that you taste is the result of the individual ingredients being joined together. Some ingredients add to the flavor, some to the texture, but all are important to the final experience of eating a great piece of cake. You can still taste many of the ingredients, but the overall flavor and texture is now the focal point.
The Beauty in Togetherness
Once the cake batter is mixed, you can’t pull out individual ingredients anymore. They cannot be separated. But when you taste the baked cake, every ingredient can be recognized through either the favor or texture it gives the cake. Every ingredient is important and cannot be left out, just as every member of the Body of Christ has great value.
The result of many Saints being built together is something better then before. The result is something that could not be achieved through the individual person. Just as eggs cannot work hard and become a cake, so individual Christians cannot try hard by themselves and become mature Christians. It takes Christ, of course—He is the one who matures us—but part of His design is that we would grow up in the Spirit together, with the guidance and encouragement of other Saints in day-to-day, face-to-face, Christ-centered community. We can follow the promptings of the Spirit together. We can embrace the Cross as the Lord refines us through fire together. We can mutually submit to brothers and sisters. We can humble ourselves and make amends when they are needed. We can think of others before ourselves. We can seek one another out. We can come together and seek what the Lord wants for us as a collective. We can seek together what the Lord wants for Himself. We can live our lives together as a people eternally connected, as family.
This is easier said then done. WAY easier—believe me. But it is the way it is designed to be. We are supposed to be mixed, molded, and thrown in the fire together. And it is worth it because He is worth it and His way is always the best way.